This “recipe” is pretty open-ended, but easy to follow. The precise amounts of ingredients will depend on how many asparagus spears you plan to use, and how many crispy bites you’d like to end up with.
Quick recipe (detailed instructions below):
Wash and dry asparagus spears. Trim the bottom ends off. Lightly dredge in seasoned flour, then in a basic egg wash, and finally in Panko bread crumbs combined with grated parmesan cheese (the cheese is optional). Bake on a baking rack placed over a sheet pan at 425˚ for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Cut with kitchen shears into approximately 2 inch lengths, and garnish with lemon zest or a little fresh lemon juice or minced preserved lemon peel and a little freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately or chilled or at room temperature.
The recipe, step-by-step, with more detailed instructions:
First, wash the asparagus spears. I used one and half bunches of regular thick-stalked asparagus. Dry them with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Then, trim the woody thick ends off. To do this, bend one asparagus spear down near the end with both hands, as if you’re going to break it in two. You’ll feel it begin to snap, and then a section of the bottom of the spear will automatically snap off. It’s usually about a 2 or 3 inch section. Where it naturally snaps off is where it should be trimmed. You can just line up the rest of the spears and cut the rest of the ends off with a knife to match the size of your sample spear.
You’ll need three shallow containers: one for flour, one for an egg and water mixture, and a third for bread crumbs. I used three cheap oblong plastic storage containers that were long enough to hold the entire spear. You could use cake pans, or even gallon-size zip top plastic bags. You’ll also need a sheet pan or cookie sheet, and a baking rack (the kind you’d cool cookies on). Preheat oven to 425˚.
In the first container, place enough all-purpose flour to coat the spears. Add a half-teaspoon of salt and stir with a fork or clean hands so the flour and salt are combined. (You could also add a little cayenne pepper or paprika or garlic powder, if you want a little spice kick. I just stuck to flour and salt.) The spears don’t have to be buried in the flour, just tossed to coat thoroughly. For my one and a half bunches of asparagus, I used about a heaping half cup of flour.
In the second container, mix 2 eggs and about a quarter cup of water. The desired result is enough egg mixture to be able to coat the asparagus spears, so that the bread crumbs (in the next step) will stick to the spears. Again, the spears do not have to be completely immersed in the egg mixture, just coated all over. Lay a few spears in the egg mixture, and use your clean hands to make sure each spear gets an “egg bath”.
In the third container, place about a heaping cup of Panko bread crumbs. Panko crumbs are flaky and made from bread specifically crafted to produce these light crumbs. They’re inexpensive and, in a regular grocery store, they’re usually found with the other bread crumb types or in the Asian section. If you’d like, grate some fresh parmesan cheese (a couple of tablespoons) into the Panko crumbs. Remove the asparagus spears from the egg bath, lightly shake off any excess egg, and place the spears into the bread crumbs, rolling to coat thoroughly. The spears will not be completely coated like a corn dog, but there will be crumbs clinging around the entire spear. You’ll still see plenty of the green asparagus through the crumb coating.
Place the baking rack on the sheet pan or cookie sheet. I put parchment paper over the sheet pan just to catch any crumbs that fell off, for easier cleanup. Lay the spears gently on the rack, making sure they are not too crowded. Air should be able to circulate around each one.
Bake them for about 15 – 18 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the asparagus is crispy. They won’t be crunchy like a potato chip, but they will not be soggy.
Then, to finish them, I used kitchen shears to cut each spear into bite-size pieces, about 2 inches long. I think they’re easier to eat that way, and more appealing to kids. For people who aren’t accustomed to eating asparagus, tasting a bite-size little crunchy bit is less intimidating than picking up an entire spear, and even if you’re an asparagus lover, the smaller pieces are neater to eat than a whole crumb-covered spear. They’re also easier to pack (easier than finding a container long enough to hold entire spears). I added a touch of lemon over them: you could use the zest of a fresh lemon peel, or a spritz of fresh lemon juice, or – even better – if you’re lucky enough to have some preserved lemons (that’s for another blog post!), a little finely minced preserved lemon peel. I also grated a little freshly ground black pepper over them. Lemon pepper (if it’s not loaded with salt and sugar) would be a great seasoning to shake over these little bites, too. They can be eaten right away, or enjoyed chilled or at room temperature. I packed them loosely in a container and brought them for a crispy picnic treat.